Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

The grand jury's decision not to pursue charges against Darren Wilson isn't surprising when you consider the wider social context of the black experience in America

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The Independent Online

It’s starting to seem like there’s always a white police officer with an impatient gun in America, waiting to inflict violence upon black bodies. And what then, after the gun has been fired? Usually the same thing. As the grand-jury’s verdict in Ferguson shows, another black death is being swept under the carpet.

My white pseudo-liberal friends will point to the looting and the riots in Ferguson, and side with Barack Obama’s calls for peaceful candlelight vigils. There’s nothing they like to do more than ignore the truth, or how easy their lives are because of their white privilege. At least 313 African-Americans were killed extra-judicially in 2012. And the cause of death? White supremacy.

Many of us are still willing to accept young men like Michael Brown as the unfortunate victims of ‘tragedy.’ But this is no Othello. I refuse to understand this death as anything but yet another life taken in the context of a genocide. Black bodies are piling up. Yet there is still a willingness to ignore the frequency with which unarmed black teenagers are dying.

There is also a willingness to allow ourselves to be distracted by the circus of the verdict, and by the firestorm of the decision now ravaging Ferguson. But what did we expect? This violence the black population must be looked at in a wider social context.

The lesson is clear: if you're white, you needn't fear being shot in public. But if you're not, then you should be scared. Just the other day, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by Ohio police after playing with a fake gun. He quickly became known as “a young man” in police press conferences. He will soon be forgotten, along with countless other names of slain black men. Kimani Grey, 16. Kendrec McDade, 19. Ervin Jefferson, 18. Timothy Stansbury Jr, 19. Yet nearly a decade later we are still looking for our missing white angel, Madeline McCann.


We are only as safe when we appear “whiter”. When I deal with authority figures, what remains of my black and African mannerisms and colloquialisms give way to perfect Received Pronunciation.  I ape white gentlemanliness, in the hopes that my performance, will create presumptions of sophistication and sameness,  invent social licence that will magically render me immune from violence. In the quest for the safety of assimilation, there are parts of myself now so whitewashed I am a little bit further away from the starting line when I try and reclaim my histories in the safety of my bedroom.

In the United Kingdom, the charitable organisation INQUEST has shown that a disproportionate number of those who die in police custody or detention are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.  I think of these figures when I reluctantly call the police to tell them that I’ve found my bike chained to some railings six months after I reported it stolen.

When call for peace, and claim it's the only legitimate path, we are the grand jury that sanctions this violence against those relegated to the margins. However much we cry, or hold candlelit vigils, we cannot escape the snowballing, interconnectedness of our oppression.